Recently, several discussions have emerged both on the VEX Forum and on Chief Delphi surrounding illegal conduct at IFI. I thought it might be beneficial to share a past experience I’ve had with IFI’s sales practices and customer support; an experience from 8 months ago that I didn’t know was significant until I read about the FTC’s regulations today.
On March 12 of this year, I ordered two packs of SKU 276-1902, which each contain two 2.75” omnidirectional wheels. I had been planning to build an X-drive, and needed four omnidirectional wheels for it. This is the confirmation I received from VEX immediately after ordering.
This was also the invoice I saved for my order which shows the same purchase of two packs of wheels.
The wheels were shipped on March 14, and I patiently waited for the wheels to arrive so that I could get to building my drivetrain.
The wheels were delivered and at first I didn’t suspect anything unusual. My mom picked up the package from the porch and put it in my room; just a small cardboard box that should have two sets of two wheels in them. However, when I opened the box, I found more wheels than I had ordered; it was double the amount such that I received eight wheels in total when it should have been four.
I was perplexed, because in my order it shows that I ordered two packs, but it says here that they shipped me four packs. I wasn’t too sure why, and I didn’t exactly know what I was going to do with the extra four wheels I got, so I just kind of brushed it aside and thought maybe a local team would want the extras in the future.
Fast forward to March 23, 11 days later. I received the following email from VEX Support.
Receiving this email was more or less to be expected since my unexplained possession of eight wheels was an anomaly in and of itself. However, I panicked a bit after this email because even though they offered me a prepaid FedEx label, I had no idea how to even go about delivering this package back to Greenville. In one moment, I was a high school student with nothing on my mind but building an X-drive with my new omnidirectional wheels, and in the next, I felt as if I was some kind of criminal in the eyes of VEX Robotics and IFI for not returning a package I didn’t ask for in the first place.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that VEX’s threat of charging me for the duplicate order was illegal per FTC regulations. As stated by their website:
By law, companies can’t send unordered merchandise to you, then demand payment. That means you never have to pay for things you get but didn’t order. You also don’t have to return unordered merchandise. You’re legally entitled to keep it as a free gift.
In the end, I did nothing and kept the wheels, not knowing how I would go about shipping them back. On April 12, I received the following email from Melissa Cooper.
The attached invoice contained this.
I received this invoice on April 12, yet all of the dates in this new invoice say March 14, two days after I placed my order, and seemingly immediately after the package shipped from Greenville. The charge is identical to the one that was made on March 12, the original purchase date: $68.96.
This clearly implies that VEX knew very well that they shipped me twice the amount that I ordered, and made no attempt to correct it. On top of this, it now appeared as if I had to pay $137.92 in total for this one order, when the total should have only been half of that. However, it’s possible that my bank ended up throwing out the extra charge due to them suspecting it as a duplicate. This is unclear as of right now, though.
Similar things have been reported by others, such as @Boomie-7492 on Chief Delphi. After Boomie’s post, @DRow replied in the FRC discord server and stated that this wasn’t possible.
For reference, my order number was 11909481. The first invoice number was 1155103. The second invoice number was 567559.
VEX Robotics was aware that they sent me parts I did not order, and they knowingly and willingly broke the law to charge me for them. Using the VEX Robotics system is a hobby and a great passion of mine, and so it pains me that the manufacturers of the parts and electronics I use so often would go as far as to try and manipulate me into illegally giving them an extra $68.96.
Now, I am a student in college, and I was looking forward to competing in VEXU. A few days ago I placed another order from VEX, purchasing 2.75” traction wheels and 6:1 motor cartridges which I was planning to use for a personal project. However, after discovering all of the shady business practices and outright illegal activity occurring within IFI and VEX Robotics, it’s safe to say that this order may have been my last, as I can no longer trust IFI or VEX Robotics to comply with consumer protection policy as laid out by the FTC.
After talking with @DRow, I can confirm that as far as the accounting work goes, the situation appears to be resolved; I believe that I am in possession of the $68.96 that I was supposed to be charged by VEX according to their email. Legally, however, I still maintain my concerns; VEX Robotics should not be threatening to charge their customers for receiving shipments they did not order. While I appreciate @DRow for taking initiative and reaching out to me about the situation, this incident shows that there seems to be a greater issue at play within the company. Additionally, there are still too many unknowns. What was the outcome of the invoice I received on April 12? Can we confirm our suspicions fully and say that this was deliberate, or do we put our trust in IFI and VEX Robotics, chalking it up to a simple logistical error? The issue is that it’s hard to know any of this because it happened so long ago. I still regret not pursuing the issue further back then, but I’m glad it’s being talked about now.